Wednesday, April 8, 2009

It Could Always Be Worse...

Well, it's been a little more than two months since my accident and I have to admit that my recuperation is progressing well, albeit slowly. But even with all the support of my family and friends, there have still been days where I've found myself frustrated, anxious or depressed about my injuries and the length of time it will take before can return to full duty. Sometimes the emotions were so strong it was almost overwhelming, and I would find myself engaging in self-pity, wondering why all this had to happen. I imagine it's pretty easy to feel that way when you're the only one you know with injuries like this.

That all changed for me last week.

I was down at Balboa Naval Hospital for another session of occupational therapy, and noticed the guy sitting next to me at the table. Like me, he was doing some exercises with his injured hand in an effort to increase its flexibility. In an effort to strike up some conversation I asked him what had happened. He responded by lifting the sleeve of his T-shirt, revealing an ugly-looking series of scars and skin grafts that wrapped around his upper bicep. It turned out that he too had been involved in a motorcycle accident, except in his case he had been forced into the guard rail which resulted in the muscles of his right arm basically being stripped off. Though the surgeons had been able to reattach them, there was still a significant amount of nerve damage. He could still move his fingers, but his hand hung limply from his wrist. He said the doctors would eventually have to fuse the wrist so that he'd at least be able to have some use of his hand.

Wow. And I thought I had it bad...

As I was considering my own injuries in light of this fellow's circumstances, I happened to notice another young man entering the therapy room. Like me, he was in a wheelchair; unlike me, I saw that he would never leave it. You see, both of his legs had been amputated at the knee - one above and one below, and his right arm was encased in a cast from his elbow to his fingertips.

I didn't get an opportunity to hear his story, but the effect it had on me was profound. Though my injuries are the worst I've ever experienced in my life, they pale in comparison to what others have to deal with. My prognosis is good - the doctors are confident that I'll eventually walk and run again, and will regain full (if somewhat limited) functionality in my wrist. It all came home to me - in a way that it never had before - that it all could have been so much worse. I could easily have been either of those two guys in the therapy room, or even worse. By God's grace and mercy I only sustained a few broken bones, neither of which were life-threatening, and which (hopefully) won't seriously impact my life or future plans beyond this year, Lord willing.

Oh, I still get frustrated from time to time - but it's not the same as it was before. Instead, I find myself focusing more on finding things to be grateful for.

And that list never ends.

1 comment:

Kris, in New England said...

I hear you on the frustration, self-pity, etc... As I enter my 8th week from hip replacement I continue to be frustrated by the things I can't do.

It is so easy to focus on that, rather than the things I can do. Like walk without pain for the first time since around 1991.

Keeping things in perspective can be hard when you've lost a measure of independence, even when you know in your heart that you'll get it back, unlike so many others.